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Stability in Maldives is in India and China’s ‘common interest’, says Beijing

President Abdulla Yameen has dispatched special envoys to China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to lobby for support in the face of growing international pressure to end the emergency and to free two detained Supreme Court judges.

india Updated: Feb 10, 2018 00:16 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
In this February 2 photo, Maldivian police officers detain an opposition protestor demanding the release of political prisoners during a protest in Male, Maldives.(AP Photo)

Beijing said on Friday it is in India and China’s “common interest” to maintain stability in the Maldives, indicating a shift from its earlier stance that no power should intervene in the name of ending the political crisis in the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Hours after warning that no nation should interfere in the Maldives, the foreign ministry indicated in a late night statement sent to Hindustan Times that the strategic footprints of India and China overlapped in the island nation.

The statement hinted that China wasn’t about to shy away from its new role in the Maldives – fuelled by big investments – despite repeated pledges not to intervene in domestic politics. It was also a tacit acknowledgment of India’s influence in the region.

Read: Trump, Modi discuss Maldives, Afghanistan, Myanmar, North Korea over phone call

“China and India maintain communication on issues of mutual interest. The sustained stability and development of the Maldives are in the common interests of China and India as well as other countries in the region,” the foreign ministry spokesperson’s office said in the statement.

As pressure from the world community mounted on President Abdulla Yameen to end the emergency he had imposed on Monday, Beijing was stout in its defence of the Maldivian regime.

Yameen’s special envoy, economic development minister Mohamed Saeed, met foreign minister Wang Yi in Beijing on Friday and briefed him about developments in the Maldives. Saeed told Wang the Maldives is capable of independently resolving the turmoil,

Though it wasn’t officially mentioned, Saeed will be heading back home on Saturday with a full assurance of China’s backing.

Read: Snubbed by India, Maldives President sends envoys to China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

Yameen has dispatched special envoys to China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to lobby for support in the face of growing international pressure to end the emergency and to free two detained Supreme Court judges.

The crisis began last week when Yameen refused to implement a Supreme Court order clearing former president Mohamed Nasheed of terror charges and freeing eight jailed opposition leaders.

At the regular briefing of the foreign ministry on Friday, spokesperson Geng Shuan had reiterated China’s stance regarding non-interference in the internal affairs of a country. The world community should play a “constructive” role, Geng said when he was asked to comment on the phone conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump during which they expressed concern about the situation in the Maldives.

“The international community should play a constructive role in promoting the stability and development (of the Maldives) on the basis of respecting sovereignty...The Chinese side has so far provided selfless help to the economic and social development of the Maldives and the cooperation...has benefited all the people of the Maldives,” Geng said.

“The current situation is the Maldives’ internal affairs. Non-interference in the internal affairs is the basic guideline of international relations as set forth in the UN charter,” he said when asked about possible Indian intervention.

Referring to the meeting between Wang and Saeed, Geng said the Maldives’ President’s special envoy had said the Maldives government “is committed to upholding the rule of law and social order and independently resolving the current issue and achieving national stability and development”.

Wang told Saeed that China is closely following the situation and believes the Maldives government and people have the ability to resolve the issue. China will not interfere in the Maldives’ internal affairs, Wang said, noting that Beijing supports the Maldivian government’s attempts to settle differences with other parties through dialogue and consultation.

Saeed also told Wang that the Maldives can protect Chinese nationals and institutions in the country.

In New Delhi, the external affairs ministry responded to media reports that Male had sought Beijing’s support to provide security to Chinese investments by saying “all countries can play a constructive role in the Maldives, instead of doing the opposite”.

The ministry’s spokesperson noted that even China had said the “Maldives government has the ability to protect…Chinese personnel and institutions”.

The spokesperson also said the Indian embassy in Male had been asked to ascertain the details regarding the detention of an Indian journalist by Maldivian authorities. Reports said the Indian was held for violating immigration rules.

First Published: Feb 09, 2018 22:29 IST